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You can tour this 18th century SC home, complete with mystery bloodstain and ghostly goat

The juxtaposition is striking: What may well be the oldest intact house in Dorchester County stands under huge and aging pecan trees, while across the fence, traffic races down Interstate 95.

Built more than two centuries ago, the Koger-Murray-Carroll stagecoach house on Wire Road near the Grover community has now been determined to be at least a decade older than thought.

It dates to circa 1786, according to a recently discovered plat by upper Dorchester County historian Peggy Phalen.

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From left, Peggy Phalen, Mark Clark and Phyllis Hughes at the Koger-Murray-Carroll stagecoach house on Wire Road in Grover was built over two centuries ago. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

No other standing house in the upper part of the county is that old, and the only house in the lower part of Dorchester County that rivals it is the South Flanker at Middleton Place in the historic plantation district along the Ashley River.

The South Flanker was built as guest quarters in 1755, but it was severely burned in a fire set at the end of the Civil War that destroyed the main house alongside. It was re-roofed and somewhat restructured afterward.

That makes the Koger-Murray-Carroll House a singular find in the rural upper county. Not generally open to the public, the historic site will be opened for people to tour Nov. 9 and 10 as part of the Dorchester County Historical Society's “Education and Living History Days.” 

"To me it's just amazing the history that's here," Phalen said. "We just ride around every day and take it for granted. But look what our ancestors left us."

Originally the homeplace of a cypress swamp plantation of more than 1,000 acres, the historic site today sits on less than 1 acre surrounded by farmland.

The house is beamed with centuries old black cypress that's still hard as brick and held together with double-pegged joists. The stagecoach house was also the home of 18th and 19th century state legislators — Joseph Koger and James Carroll, and later used as a Civil War prison.

The plat reveals it was built by a David Campbell, who sold it in 1793 for 400 pounds sterling, roughly about $12,500 in today's money. The buyer's widow subsequently married Koger.

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Legend says that back in the 1700s, when the house served as a stagecoach inn, a man was murdered on the second floor and his blood stains the cypress to this day. If the dark spew of the stain is cleaned off the floor, the legend says it reappears. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Then, in this Halloween season, there is the story of the blood. Legend says that back in the 1700s when the house served as a stagecoach inn, a man was murdered on the second floor, and his blood stains the cypress to this day.

If the dark spew of the stain is cleaned off the floor, the legend says it reappears.

The man's ghost is said to haunt the house, one of a spectral ensemble that includes a goat in a bonnet said to jump out a second floor window.

The place is an architectural curio, and its signature might be the original "9 over 9" sash and muntin windows that open from the first floor rooms. Windows with nine panes were a sign of an "up-country," or fancier house in the 1700s, when glass was hard to come by.

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Several original “9 over 9” sash and muntin windows that open from the first floor rooms. Windows with nine panes were a sign of an “up-country,” or fancier house in the 1700s. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

On the upstairs window frames, pencil drawings and messages were scrawled that still can be made out: "The 15 of April was an exceeding cold day with a lot of snowing. 1849" and "If you give me a pencil you know I will write."

The house is the cornerstone achievement of the Upper Dorchester County Historical Society, which owns it. The society cobbled together a $250,000 restoration in the early 2000s using their own labor, grants, fundraisers like tea parties, car shows and families buying windows where memorial plaques were placed.

The group, which was then newly formed, did it with few members and no real financing or historic restoration background. They were so tight on cash that they opened a bank account with a zero balance and were flabbergasted to get two $100 checks at the first open house they held.

All they had was a love for the neglected history of the upper county, the stories that had been told down through their families.

The society later was the galvanizer behind the Dorchester County Archives and History Center, along with its heritage museum in the old county courthouse on Ridge Street in St. George. Today the archives feature more than 120,000 document records along with donated family heirlooms such as a collection of Civil War artifacts.

But as memorabilia go, the Koger-Murray-Carroll House stands alone.

For Phyllis Hughes, the society president, there's only one disappointment. She's looked and looked and looked, but "I never have seen a ghost," she said.

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Peggy Phalen, upper Dorchester County historian, stands in the doorway at the Koger-Murray-Carroll stagecoach house on Wire Road in Grover was built over two centuries ago. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Mark Clark is a lifelong construction contractor who volunteers maintenance work at the house and whose ancestors might well have owned it at one point. When he steps inside, he said, he no longer hears the interstate traffic.

"It's so peaceful here," he said  "It's not like you're 'working' working. It's a pleasure."

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Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.

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